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THE GRIND: West Forsyth's Woodall rebuilt himself for climb to the top
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THE GRIND: West Forsyth Wrestling's Jack Woodall

Shot by Paul Dybas Edited by Paul Dybas

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Jack Woodall says he’s always loved wrestling since starting at the age of 7, but the West Forsyth junior admits it often felt like the results were just coming to him naturally. Maybe it was good luck?

It was a dose of bad luck in Woodall’s sophomore year that made him decide to completely take control of himself and the sport he loves.

The good — a 14-2 start to the 2015 season. He had aspirations of not just making it to state, but placing as an underclassmen. However, with any wrestler, decisions about which weight class to compete in can be a monumental risk—a leap of faith that could pay off or cause a setback.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year, Woodall’s attempt to cut from 145 pounds to 126 proved costly. Woodall attempted that drop, hoping to have an advantage over smaller opponents, in too quick of a time frame. His immune system fell victim, causing him to catch strep throat and the flu in a matter of days.

Then came a trip to North Carolina, where an inopportune fall caused him to black out. Coaches tried to clear him, but one trip to the lunchroom set the diagnosis.

“I almost threw up from the noise and the lights in there,” Woodall said. “I knew at that point something was wrong.”

Woodall was diagnosed with a concussion that day, but he said he never was able to recover from the gauntlet of illness that struck him at a pivotal moment.

“I was in a fog for the rest of the year,” Woodall said. “Practice was exhausting. I just couldn’t get right and it was the most important time of the season. It was definitely frustrating.”

So, heading into his junior campaign, Woodall decided to take the opposite approach. The goal: move back up four weight classes and rehash a game plan to place at state. He didn’t want to stop there though. He also wanted to commit to being a team leader and setting the bar for the program moving forward.

“Last season we had nine guys, including legacy guys like Denver Stonecheck, who was my partner,” Woodall said. “This season you see that void, we are a very young team, so I want to be one of those who help lead the program moving forward and use my actions to show what we need to do as a team.”

Woodall hit the gym hard in the summer and fall, committing to a disciplined strength program. Lifting with intent—rather than focusing on intensity—and adding two meals to his daily diet helped him go from 126 to 160 pounds. He proudly admits it’s mostly muscle.

“It’s been about packing protein,” Woodall said. “I like ramen noodles as well, and I’ll admit my mother does a good deal of the cooking but she doesn’t mind.”

The bulkier junior has started this season 12-4, not quite the start he had last year. But there’s a distinction tied to those victories that stand out.

“All 12 of those wins are pins,” Woodall said. “That’s pretty uncommon. I’ve always been one who wants to finish the match fast, but to pull that off is out of the ordinary. I think all but one have been first period pins.”

He also managed to place first at the Woodstock Invitational. The drive that Woodall put into action in the offseason was overdue—but he feels it represents who he truly is.

“It’s all self-driven I think,” Woodall said. “I can’t really explain it. I just want to be on the top. I’ve been wrestling since I was 7, I’ve always wanted to be the best, but it’s been a challenge and has required a lot of learned discipline.”